Sunday, April 30, 2023

Apple's Coming Headset


Bloomberg - "Apple Readies Arsenal of Apps for New Headset, Aiming to Win Over Wary Users"
By Mark Gurman

"Apple Inc. is racing to build a trove of software and services for its upcoming mixed-reality headset, seeking to win over potentially wary consumers with apps that use the device’s novel 3D interface.

The offerings will include gaming, fitness and collaboration tools, new versions of Apple’s existing iPad features, and services for watching sports, according to people with knowledge of the plans. The roughly $3,000 headset is set to debut at an event in June, with the product going on sale months later.


The push will include optimized versions of the Safari web browser and Apple’s services for calendars, contacts, files, home control, mail, maps, messaging, notes, photos and reminders, as well as its music, news, stocks and weather apps. There also will be a version of the FaceTime conferencing service and Apple’s TV app. The features will look similar to their iPad counterparts.


Besides the core apps, the company is working on a version of Apple Books for the headset that will allow users to read in virtual reality. The company is also testing a camera app that can take pictures from the headset. On the wellness front, an app will help wearers meditate with a series of calming graphics, sounds and voice-overs.

In what is likely to be another highlight of the device, Apple is also working on a version of its Fitness+ service for the headset, which will let users exercise while watching an instructor in VR. Meta Platforms Inc., the market leader in VR headsets, has also tried to make workouts a part of its offerings.


FaceTime, meanwhile, will generate 3D versions of users in virtual meeting rooms, Bloomberg News has reported. The idea is to make participants feel like they’re talking together in the same place — a goal of virtual reality goggles for some time. Meta has pursued a similar objective with its Quest headsets, but so far it hasn’t proven to be a must-have feature for most consumers.


One selling point for the headset will be viewing sports in an immersive way. The company already offers games from Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball on Apple TV+, but it’s looking to make that a richer experience. In 2020, Apple acquired a Southern California company called NextVR to bolster this effort."

Beer and Indie Wrestling in Quees/Brooklyn


NY Mag - "The Look Book Goes to an Indie Wrestling Match On a recent Thursday, the Queens Brewery played host to Outlaw Wrestling’s monthly brawl."

New York Times - "Beer and Body Slams, as Craft Brewers and Wrestlers Get in the Ring" (Jun. 2022)

Vince McMahon's Neokayfabe (Apr. 2023)
Rey Mysterio Jr. and the L.A. Lucha Libre Scene (Apr. 2023)

Can You Spot the Fake Images?


Streaming Moves to Ads


The Verge - "The future of streaming is ads"
By David Pierce

NY Mag - "It’s Tubi’s Time How the weird, free streamer won the internet’s heart."
By Josef Adalian

Jony Ive's Typeface


Fast Company - "Jony Ive spent the past 4 years perfecting his typeface. Here’s why he’ll never be done"

Jony Ive on Steve Jobs (Oct. 2021)

From Guatemala to Duolingo


New Yorker - "How Much Can Duolingo Teach Us?"

"The company’s founder, Luis von Ahn, believes that artificial intelligence is going to make computers better teachers than humans."

Eminem's Handwritten Lyrics for Stan


Axios - "See Eminem's original handwritten "Stan" lyrics"

Sunday, April 16, 2023

“The center of gravity of where the world is, it’s been shifting for a while…"


Wall Street Journal - "India’s Population Surpasses China’s, Shifting the World’s ‘Center of Gravity’"

"In many ways, India looks like China did 30 years ago. It has a rapidly expanding working-age population, with 610 million people under age 25, and relatively few older people to care for. It will be the only nation with a big enough labor force to approach China as the world’s factory floor, though poor infrastructure and byzantine investment rules could stand in the way.


India has upgraded its infrastructure by paving roads and building new airports, and expanded access to electricity and water across the country. India’s mobile payments system has also sparked a boom in digital payments. Some economists predict that India’s gross domestic product will more than double to $8.5 trillion from $3.4 trillion over the next 10 years, after roughly doubling over the past decade.

Still, the country has added zero net new jobs over the past decade, in part due to the pandemic, even as over 100 million more people entered the labor force. Many young people don’t bother looking for work, given insufficient opportunities.

India has 228.9 million people, or 16.4% of the population, living in poverty—the most in the world, according to U.N. data, although the numbers have fallen. Some economists warn that India could face internal instability if it doesn’t create more economic opportunities. Authorities last year quelled violent protests in two states after more than 10 million people applied for 35,000 jobs with the national railway system.

China’s demographic challenges, meanwhile, aren’t insurmountable. Officials believe that with better education and technological advancement, they can offset the effects of a shrinking labor force.

Whatever happens, the world’s future population will be tilted more toward the Global South—and not just because of India. South Asia will have the largest working-age population among all regions by 2041, according to World Bank estimates.

Demographers long expected India to surpass China, but China’s policy decisions accelerated the process."

Obama's Reading Habits


Esquire - "Behind the Scenes of Barack Obama’s Reading Lists"

"While Schultz freely admits that staff members contribute to planning the announcements and creating promotional elements like social-media graphics, he said, “these lists come from him. This is not a staff-led exercise, and I think if it was, it wouldn’t pass the smell test. These lists wouldn’t be as salient or get as much traction if it wasn’t coming from him directly.”

According to Schultz, the richness of Obama’s reading recommendations are a reflection of the man himself and his community. You don’t need The New York Times Book Review or Susie from book club to get recommendations when you’re constantly surrounded by some of the most interesting people in the world. As Schultz pointed out, “Being a former president, one of the perks is access to people and communities and stories from every corner of the planet, in every industry, in every sector, in every vector… Whether it’s people in business or sports or his daughter or other friends, these are all people that he hears about books from.”

The titles that Obama selects are incredibly diverse both in subjects and in authors, varying widely from the boring political tomes written by old white men that you might imagine dwelling on the nightstands of former presidents. Of the 13 titles included in Obama’s Favorite Books of 2022, there are nine works of fiction and four works of nonfiction, including books by eight women and eight BIPOC authors. There’s a novel about a dystopian school for mothers; a graphic novel about labor and survival in Canada; a journey through the history, rituals, and landscapes of the American South; and a beautifully crafted short-story collection. As someone who spent the better part of a decade working in Big Five book publishing (the five largest publishing houses: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette), I can tell you that the former president has impeccable taste.


The question of how the most powerful man on the planet found time to read Fates and Furies amid major world events like the Arab Spring and the killing of Osama bin Laden is a perfectly valid reason for skepticism—the guy was and is busy!—but Schultz says Obama found time to read because he sees reading as necessary, and he makes it a priority on his schedule. “He considered [reading] part of being a good leader, part of being a good president, part of being a good father, a good husband, and a good man,” Schultz said."

Bad Bunny at Coachella 2023


Pitchfork - "Bad Bunny Headlines First Night of Coachella 2023"
The Guardian - "Bad Bunny at Coachella review – charismatic superstar hosts high-energy party"
Rolling Stone - "Bad Bunny Powers Through History-Making, Guest-Filled Set at Coachella"
Billboard - "Bad Bunny Brings Out Post Malone, Rides a Jet Ski & More During Historic Two-Hour Set at Coachella 2023"

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Americans Love Tex-Mex and Latin Food

Axios - "Latin and Tex-Mex overtake Italian as America's go-to food order"

The go-to favorite cuisine of Americans used to be Italian, but increasingly it's Latin American and Tex-Mex food like tacos, quesadillas and birrias — with Asian food next on the horizon, per Datassential, a restaurant-menu consultancy.

Why it matters: The dramatic rise in the U.S. Latino population is reshaping the national palate — and sending restaurant operators south of the border (or thereabouts) to freshen up their menus.

Driving the news: An analysis of the 4,500 new menu items released at major restaurant chains last year found that Americans are craving cheesy, spicy foods with Latin-inspired ingredients and preparations.

The 10 fastest-growing items on U.S. menus include birria (a Mexican meat stew), chicken taco salad, and dishes made with Tajín, a seasoning of chile peppers, lime and sea salt.

The #1 menu addition? Ranch Water, a summery cocktail of tequila, lime and Topo Chico sparkling water, per Datassential.

Tequila is poised to overtake vodka as the country's top-selling spirit, while margaritas have become the most popular cocktail.

What they're saying: "When we work with [restaurant] clients, if they're going to ask about what flavors to put on the menu, it's probably going to be Latin," says Mike Kostyo, the "trendologist" at Datassential who analyzed 2022's menus.

"And if it's not that, it's probably going to be Asian."

The big picture: For the longest time, Italian food was America's favorite — bring on the pizza and pasta!

Then came the millennials, "the first generation to actually prefer Mexican cuisine over Italian cuisine," Kostyo says.

Now comes Gen Z, "the first generation to prefer both Mexican and Chinese cuisine over Italian cuisine."

"Previously, you had spaghetti or pizza on the menu as go-to comfort food. Now you're probably going to put a taco on the menu," Kostyo tells Axios. Where it stands: Demographic changes — which translate to shifts in childhood favorites and adult preferences — are reflected in our evolving appetites.

"Look at college campuses today," Kostyo says. In the food court, "there's going to be an Asian bowl; there's probably going to be a taco and a burrito." "The things that young people are growing up with as the norm are so different from 20-30 years ago."

How it works: Datassential maintains a database of 40,000 food and drink items at big restaurant chains, and asks consumers to rate the new additions based on the menu description, picture and price.

Consumers score the dishes in categories like "uniqueness" and whether they would order them.

Restaurateurs use the scores to "concept test" new dishes or revamp tired offerings.

🌮 What we like: The dishes ranking highest in consumer appeal in 2022 included a number of "limited time offers" (LTOs, in industry parlance), such as the Barbacoa Quesadilla Benedict from breakfast/lunch chain First Watch and the Orange Chicken Sandwich Bao from Panda Express. (Read Datassential's report.)

Pop Culture Moments from the Pandemic


New York Times - "17 Pop Culture Moments That Define the Covid Era"

1. The Getaway to Schadenfreude Island - "The White Lotus"
2. The Eerily Prescient Novel - Ling Ma's "Severance"
3. The Daily Oasis of Sanity - "Lunch Doodles With Mo Willems"
4. Endless Baking Shows
5. The Soundtrack to a Furious Summer - Pop Smoke's "Dior"
6. The Superstar's Voice in Our Ears - Taylor Swift's "Folklore"
7. The Sitcom That Was Just as Anxious as We Were - "Ted Lasso"
8. TikTok Challenges
9. The Paranoia Safe Space - Among Us
10. The Isolation Aphrodisiac - "Love Is Blind"
11. The Flop That Was Gloriously Reborn - "Tenet"
12. Zillow
13. The Videogame That Twisted Time - "Final Fantasy VII Remake"
14. The Must-Have Uniform for Doing NOthing - Kim Kardashian's Skims
15. The Comedy Special That Made Us Laugh on the Inside - Bo Burnham's "Inside"
16. The Slap
17. The Chance to Save the World - Pandemic: The Game

The Next Era of Movies After Superheroes?


Axios - "Movies bet big on known brands"

If there’s one thing that can lure customers back into the theaters, it’s familiar and beloved brands.

Why it matters: With investments in streaming content rising, profit worries growing and audiences scattering to their living rooms (or wherever their phones are), it’s more difficult for studios to gauge which bets will pay off.

The solution? Take characters and stories that are already wildly popular — whether from gaming or toys — and spin them into storylines that can play out on screens.

Driving the news: The newly-released trailer for Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” film has taken the internet by storm, with the film’s colorful movie posters quickly going viral as memes on social media.

Ben Affleck's biographical sports drama "Air" also debuts in theaters today. The film tells the story of Nike's rise to sneaker dominance. Paramount’s “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” took home the top spot at the box office this weekend with a $38.5 million domestic debut. Nintendo is now testing its potential as a cross-medium entertainment powerhouse with the release of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," Axios Gaming author Stephen Totilo writes.

The trend is extending to television, too.

HBO's season premiere of “The Last of Us” — based on the Playstation game — drew 4.7 million viewers across linear television and HBO Max in January, per Deadline.

Between the lines: Movie studios have leaned more heavily into familiar brands and franchises in the streaming era.

Case-in-point: “John Wick" became the third film in March to open to franchise-best numbers, following "Creed III" and "Scream VI," Axios' Tim Baysinger writes.

What’s next: Other familiar franchises expected to hit theaters this year include new sequels to classic films, such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Wonka” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

The big picture: The stars are aligned for new franchises and gaming-based content to succeed with large audiences. After all, superhero stories are causing fatigue.

Hollywood is “not so much a hits business as it is a risk mitigation business,” Sanjay Sharma, Marginal MediaWorks' founder and CEO, previously told Axios. Funding projects based on stories and characters from toys and video games played by hundreds of millions of people seems like a safe bet.

Frenchman Leon Marchand Breaks 200 and 400 IM Records


Cricket the Next Soccer?


Seattle Times - "Major League Cricket is coming to Seattle. Will it become the new soccer?"

The Magic of Tetris


New York Times - "Why Tetris Consumed Your Brain"

UConn's 133 Play Playbook


From Axios Sports:

One of the keys to UConn's national championship run? Their incredibly deep playbook, which featured 133 different sets.

What they're saying: "Probably the best playbook I have seen in the last five years," says Gibson Pyper of Half Court Hoops, who compiled video breakdowns and diagrams for every set.

"Their sheer number of plays are more than anybody ... They're running something every time," one Big East coach told ESPN ($). "How do you go over everything? You can't."

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Vince McMahon's Neokayfabe


New Yorker - "How Much Does Pro Wrestling Matter?"

"McMahon’s product would maintain its onscreen façade, but in public he and his performers would otherwise obfuscate where fiction began and ended. In time, pro wrestling’s authenticity and farce would blend into a new pseudo-reality that Riesman dubs “neokayfabe.” Elements might be fake in ways that appeared real, and real in ways that appeared fake. Each provided cover for the other, and in both ways served the promoter’s ends. A real-life love triangle among performers, reported in the industry trades, could become the basis for an in-character blood feud that fans might invest in all the more; a wrestler might appear to veer off script to air workplace grievances but actually be advancing a meta story line. This cagey murkiness would redefine both McMahon and his industry—and, in Riesman’s telling, his country."

Rey Mysterio Jr. and the L.A. Lucha Libre Scene


Los Angeles Times - "Ahead of WrestleMania, here’s a brief history of lucha libre in Los Angeles"
Los Angeles Times - "A look beneath the mask of Rey Mysterio before his Hall of Fame induction"

"Mysterio began wrestling as La Lagartija Verde (the Green Lizard) and Colibri in Southern California in 1989 and was electric in the ring with his high-flying moves even though he was just 14. When the lucha libre AAA Worldwide promotion began in Mexico City in 1992, fellow pro wrestler Konnan suggested Mysterio be one of the first hires. Konnan will be introducing Mysterio at Friday’s Hall of Fame ceremony.

“And I remember telling him, ‘I can’t leave. I was in 11th grade at the time. I had a part time job at a pizza restaurant. And my girlfriend, who is now my wife, we were dating. I told him that I couldn’t go and he said, ‘Do you want to make pizzas for the rest of your life?’ And I did tell him about school and wrestling. He says, ‘So you end up graduating from high school then wrestling locally? Anyway, if your girlfriend loves you, she’ll wait for you. And you’ll get married.’ All of those things were right.”

In 1994, when AAA held a pay-per-view event “When Worlds Collide,” he was noticed by Paul Heyman, the promoter of the Philadelphia-based Extreme Championship Wrestling. Heyman quickly signed him, where he was quickly stolen away by World Championship Wrestling. When that company went out of business, he made a brief return to Mexico and in 2002 came to WWE, where he has won 24 championships.

The Modern Religion of Workism


The Atlantic - "Why Americans Care About Work So Much"
By Derek Thompson

"Rail and telegraphs made new kinds of businesses possible, including department stores, mail-order houses, and the national oil and steel behemoths. Large companies required massive, multilevel bureaucracies. And within these laborious labyrinths, workers could ascend from grunt to manager to executive. These corporations invented the modern journey of a career, that narrative arc bending toward a set of precious initials: VP, SVP, CEO.

As the managerial revolution created a sense of professional progress, the decline of organized religion and social integration in the 20th century left many Americans bereft of any sense of spiritual progress. For some, work rose to fill the void. Many highly educated workers in the white-collar economy feel that their job cannot be “just a job” and that their career cannot be “just a career”: Their job must be their calling. 


I call this new religion “workism.” Workism is not a simple evil or virtue; rather, it’s a complex phenomenon. It is rooted in the belief that work can provide everything we have historically expected from organized religion: community, meaning, self-actualization. And it is characterized by the irony that, in a time of declining trust in so many institutions, we expect more than ever from the companies that employ us—and that, in an age of declining community attachments, the workplace has, for many, become the last community standing. This might be why more companies today feel obligated to serve on the front lines in political debates and culture-war battles.

The credo that work should be the centerpiece of one’s identity quietly governs several stages of modern life. For many children and their parents, it has created an obsession with educational achievement that is igniting an anxiety crisis. For adults, it leads to overwork in the labor force and less time focused on family, friends, and personal pursuits.

In some cases, the worship of work squeezes out other values and relationships that are more conducive to a healthy life and community. In an era of diminishing attachments, career and work sometimes seem like the last truly universal virtues. In a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, roughly half of Americans said that the most important part of a fulfilling life is work that provides joy and meaning. Less than a third said the same about being in a committed relationship or having children. Well, one might say, that’s just one report. But this week, a widely circulated Wall Street Journal survey found that traditional values such as patriotism, marriage, and community seem to be falling out of favor. Although the headline and viral graphs almost certainly exaggerate the degree of decline, the underlying survey found that one virtue finished first, above tolerance, community, and even self-fulfillment: “hard work.”"

Searching for Classical Music


WSJ - "Apple Wants to Solve One of Music’s Biggest Problems"

"You could just compare Taylor Swift and Tchaikovsky. For a Taylor Swift pop song, the essential pieces of metadata, or the taxonomic labels that categorize information, are title, album and artist. The metadata for a Tchaikovsky track can include not just the name of the work, composer and artist, but also the nickname, movement, key, opus number, orchestra, soloist and conductor. “It gets really nerdy and very specific—and very complicated,” said Ms. Gottlieb.

Another way of thinking about classical music’s biggest problem is distinguishing repertoire from recordings. A pop star like Taylor Swift is the recording artist for her repertoire. But one piece of Tchaikovsky’s repertoire has many recordings, as if every Taylor Swift single had thousands of covers. The streaming platforms are optimized for Taylor Swift and not Tchaikovsky."